Shelves lined with dates, jams and halloumi cheese made supply chain snarls seem a world away at a visit to Blady Middle Eastern grocery Tuesday.
Jugs of olive oil greeted customers stepping through the front door; aisles were filled with exotic wares.
Taking a closer look, though, visitors could find evidence of continued shortages and backlogs. For example, there were few chickens for purchase.
Issa Qandeel, the grocery store’s owner, said Blady used to get all its chickens from British Columbia.
“When the flood happened (in 2021), they stopped our order for almost two, three weeks,” he said.
Now, Qandeel sources from Toronto, too. But even with multiple suppliers, he’s having trouble getting his chickens on time.
“We’re just worried about the prices,” he said, adding that about half his store’s goods have become more expensive to acquire since the pandemic began.
‘The routes by which goods get to Manitoba are vulnerable to extreme events, maybe more so than we thought’ ‐ Danny Blair, co-director of the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg.
Going forward, the global supply chain will likely face more disruptions and sporadic backlogs, experts say. Climate change plays a big role.
“The terrible flooding event in British Columbia was an eye-opener for a lot of people, including people in Manitoba,” said Danny Blair, co-director of the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg.
“The routes by which goods get to Manitoba are vulnerable to extreme events, maybe more so than we thought.”
Flooding, droughts and other severe weather in the province and beyond will scramble supply chain systems more often, he said.
“We just have to expect that extreme events will become more frequent and more severe,” Blair said.
Not to mention on-going trucker protests which are choking border crossings.
Rick Reid, executive director of the Manitoba Institute of Supply Chain Canada, predicts companies will need to restructure their supply chains based on changing temperatures, and shifting growing patterns, in the coming years.
“Companies that aren’t thinking about it now are definitely going to get left behind very quickly once this thing gets momentum,” Reid said. “Those that are lagging behind are going to be chasing, and a lot of them aren’t going to be able to catch up.”
Manitoba’s supply chain could be strained in the next five to 10 years due to an aging truck driver population, Reid said. This has created a significant shortage of truckers.
“Without more people coming into the profession, that will be a disruption,” he said. “Lots of people will be competing with a small number of trucks to move their goods.”
The lifestyle isn’t attractive to younger generations, Reid said — it’s a lot of time alone in a truck cabin, and other jobs pay more.
If there are fewer truckers, the price to move goods could increase, Reid said. Trucks contribute to moving 95 per cent of goods in Manitoba, according to the Manitoba Trucking Association.
Approximately 475 for-hire trucking companies are headquartered in the province.
“One of the fascinating things about supply chains’ resilience and sustainability is you learn how everything is connected,” said Paul Larson, a supply chain management professor at the University of Manitoba.
Future virus outbreaks and cyber attacks — think computer systems crashing or being hacked — will contribute to supply chain blips and bottlenecks, Larson said.
“Companies (should) have a supply chain risk evaluation and management plan,” he said. “It all starts with… an early warning system.”
Subscribing to outlets that scan global news and send alerts is one form of early warning system, Larson said.
“As soon as you have a strong suspicion that something bad is coming, it gives you more options about how to react,” he said.
Though the global supply chain faces numerous threats in its future, Larson isn’t worried — food will continue to reach store shelves, he said.
“They’ll find a way to get groceries on the shelves and goods in the stores,” he said. “Frankly, if for no other reason, there’s those few folks who are making so much money doing it they won’t want to let it go.
“It’s capitalism,” he said.
Wholesalers should have an easier time adjusting if Manitoba’s — and the world’s — supply chain becomes a roller-coaster again, according to Tom Tetlock, vice-president of retail at Pratts Wholesale.
“Every wholesaler… had to review other vendor options,” he said. “Everybody’s got to think outside the box.”
Forming new connections has been key to keeping stores stocked.
Now, the global supply chain is unknotting itself. Things aren’t normal, but “it’s not bad overall,” said Munther Zeid, Food Fare’s owner.
He can’t sell Ragu pasta sauce — the company discontinued selling in Canada — and customers can’t get a 250-ml bottle of Kraft dressing, but everything from toilet paper to cookies to frozen vegetables are at the ready.
“Things aren’t moving as fast as they should, but the stuff is on the road,” Zeid said. “When people go back to normal, everything goes back to normal.”
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.